Did We Win or Lose the War?
By Chaim Israeli
The Lebanon war is over, or is it? There is a cease fire and there are no rockets being fired from the Hezbollah. But we who live in Israel and saw our sons go off to fight the enemy in Lebanon, and we who took families in to our house from the north and spent those anxious moments during the war now wonder what was accomplished? Many Israelis argue if we won the war or did we lose it?
The unfortunate truth is that there is really no definition that satisfies everyone. What is termed "victory"? It is like beauty; it is in the eyes of the beholder. Hezbollah claims victory, George Bush claims victory, Ehud Olmert claims victory, Iran claims victory, even the UN claims some sort of victory.
What are they talking about and what is victory?
What did Olmert see that he should claim victory? Many Israeli soldiers were killed by the Hezbollah. What was the purpose of the invasion? Ostensibly it was to free the captive Israeli soldiers and stop the terrorist incursions. Did the Israeli Defensive Forces achieve their goals?
No, and yes. No, they did not bring back the kidnapped soldiers, but yes they did show Hezbollah that they would pay a high price for another incursion. They brought the message to the Lebanese government and to their citizens that Israel could be a dangerous neighbor if attacked and that they did not want the Hezbollah on their border. They let the Lebanese people and government know that they would pay a high price for allowing a terrorist group to operate freely in their sovereign territory. Hezbollah and the Lebanese government will incur a high price for giving terror free rein.
But did the Lebanese people and their government take Israel's message to heart in the manner that it was intended? For this we will have to wait to see the results of the next elections in Lebanon. If Hezbollah gains in popularity, we will know that we have created a greater problem than we came to solve. If the Lebanese government takes seriously its sovereignty and reins in or disposes of Hezbollah, then some good will have come from those valiant Israeli boys who were killed and wounded.
As for George Bush's claim of victory, he needed to point out to the world that the democratic countries will not tolerate terror. He wanted to show that he supports democratic counties that are willing to challenge the extreme fundamentalist Islam inspired terror organizations like Hezbollah. But will it make any difference in the world? Probably not, but only time may tell.
Did Hezbollah achieve victory? Again this is a relative victory for Hezbollah. They lost hundreds of men, much munitions and arms, much of their hiding places were discovered and the Israelis are wise to them. But, they managed to shell the north of Israel with relative impunity. In the eyes of the Arab masses who viewed the Israeli Army and Air Force as unbeatable, there was a feeling that the Arabs are catching up. Hezbollah's victory is not a military victory, but the feeling in the hearts and minds of the simple Arabs that they achieved something by not being defeated by the Israelis.
Indeed, it is now the Israel's fear that Hezbollah will be re-armed with greater range missiles and with greater strength warheads. In Israel, the mood is that the next war is inevitable; it is just a matter of time.
Yet we see that one of the big weapons that the Arabs possess is the big lie. Nasrallah threatened to send missiles to Tel Aviv. We knew that if he had them, he would not threaten, he would have used them. The real damage done by Hezbollah's missiles was small, especially if compared to the bombings in Lebanon by the IDF. But it is not the facts of the war that are so important, what is important are the reaction of the masses and their view of what was accomplished.
Therefore everyone can claim victory, a limited victory, for their side. The war really did not give either side a show of a real victory, in completely smashing the enemy, but in some small way everyone can claim victory. Israel seems to posses a fear of really wining a war, of totally destroying their enemy as the Allies did in World War II. They must overcome this neurosis and do a job properly to claim victory, for a war like this only breed a greater conflict in another ten years time.
But the importance of this war is not the victory or defeat, real or imaginary. The importance of this war will be seen only as the future unfolds in front of us. Will the Hezbollah be displaced? Will the Israeli government realize that the Arabs are serious in their desire to exterminate them and change some of their unrealistic programs? If so, then the war would become a real victory.
However if the Lebanese people support Hezbollah, and the self destructive policies of the Olmert government continue and encourage Arab extremists to attack us, then Hezbollah, Iran and their anti Western allies will have realized a victory.
My personal hope is that Olmert government will fall and a new government will be more security conscious. Haifa was the unofficial seat of the Liberal voice of Israel. Things have changed. The country is turning away from the liberal views of Olmert. The Israeli in the street now realizes that pulling out Jews from the houses and land that they lived in for years have indeed encouraged Arab terror as we see daily that the Quassam attacks from the Gaza strip continue, although the media rarely reports it unless someone is killed or injured.
The Israeli society has wanted peace desperately for many years, but it can not achieve peace with terrorist groups by conceding to them gains. Slowly it is becoming acceptable to say that terror organizations can not be negotiated with. We see clearly that can not be trusted. Oslo and Arafat took the message to even the most starry eyed peace protagonist.
Victory will only be if the Israeli Armed Forces retrain for guerilla warfare; if they become capable of not just invading and reeking havoc on populated areas, but if they can uproot the terrorists who utilize civilians as shields for their terror attacks. Israel must want real victory, not just a limited victory, but a smashing victory that will completely crush its enemies, and they must not be ashamed to say it.
from the October 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine